All posts by Keira M. Smith

Match Preview: NYCFC at Philadelphia Union

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

For the last regular season game of the season, New York City Football Club will  face Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium on Sunday.  The Union has been a constant threat in the Eastern Conference all season and are currently locked in a tight battle with Atlanta United for second place in the conference.  Both teams have 55 points, with 33 games played but Atlanta currently hold one more win than Philly.  Both Atlanta and Philadelphia also have 1.67 points per game.  Needless to say, Philadelphia will be throwing all their efforts behind an all out 3 point victory to climb over Atlanta.

Not surprisingly, the Union has a very similar record to NYCFC with a large number of draws this season, particularly when away, and have only lost two matches at home, compared to NYCFC’s one home 2019 defeat. NYCFC’s sole home loss was to Portland Timbers while Philadelphia lost to Toronto FC and (shocker!) Portland Timbers.  Historically head-to-head at Philadelphia, the Union have three wins while NYC have two.  Earlier in the  season when these two teams met in the Bronx, City defeated Philly 4-2.

Philadelphia is expected to rely on striker Kacper Przybylko, who carries the bulk of the team’s goals scored with a tally of 15. And it’s a deep bench:  Marco Fabian and Ilsinho, who commonly come on as subs, are the next top scorers with 6 and 5 goals respectively.

Again with the similarities on paper, NYCFC’s leading goal scorer Héber, also has 15 goals scored.  Héber is expected to return to his role both setting up his partner-in-attacking-crime, Taty Castellanos, and finishing balls anywhere near the net.  I anticipate that the team will be playing to win but will need to be cautious to prevent any further injuries going into the playoffs.  In the last match, a loss at New England (0-2), Héber was just returning from an injury and played more than was optimal, likely due to the lack of Castellanos in that game.  

Castellanos was ineligible to play due to yellow card accumulation.  For the New England match the team also played without Alex Ring and Maxime Chanot – both due to card accumulation – and also without Anton Tinnerholm, out with a concussion.  Chanot and Ring will be back in the lineup for this match.

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NYCFC’s starting formation will depend a lot on the status of Tinnerholm.  His abilities and attacking mindset at right back allow the team to successfully utilize a 3-4-3 with him in a forward-moving wingback role. The team has found a rhythm and balance when Ronald Matarrita fills this role on the left and Tinnerholm is on the right.  Without Tinnerholm, there is a lot less momentum on the right side and the team needs to rely heavily on the center and left side, making the attacks more predictable and easier to defend by the opposition.  

Erik Miller was brought in to be a back up for Tinnerholm in this role and time will tell whether he can slot in fluidly but, for now, Sebastien Ibeagha has done an excellent job defending and destroying plays in the position of right back, particularly in the match against Atlanta United.  He’s indicated that he is working on his transitions to attacking with overlapping runs down the right flank.  City is going to defend hard and rely heavily on its midfield, especially Maxi Moralez, to get balls to the two headed attacking dragon of Castellanos and Héber.

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The season will certainly end on an exciting note with NYCFC still in first place in the eastern conference.

All images: Tisha Gale

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The Concussion Game: NYCFC collides with FC Dallas 1-1

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

If you look at the match statistics it doesn’t look that bad, but boy was yesterday’s New York City Football Club match against FC Dallas an ugly one.  

First, let’s give kudos to Taty Castellanos for scoring the quickest goal in the club’s history, bagging one off a cross by Anton Tinnerholm 39 seconds into the game.  NYCFC did manage to continue with consistent possession in the attacking third for the first quarter of the game.  Those are the positive takeaways from this match in their entirety.

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One could argue that City was exhausted from a tight match schedule and unaccustomed to playing in the 90 plus degree heat. Whatever the cause, the team for most of the match looked uncharacteristically like laggy video game players with legs made of lead.  

The game was leveled by a one-touch Zdenek Ondrasek rocket which was given to him on a proverbial platter via a sloppy defensive play by Alex Ring. The result should have been a loss if not for poor finishing by Dallas and by goalkeeper Sean Johnson being virtually flawless. Looking back, it seems that once Tinnerholm came off with a potentially serious head injury, everything seemed to fall apart.

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Soccer, as we all know, is a dangerous sport with the potential for a slew of injuries, but to me the scariest are the head injuries.  Watching the collision between Tinnerholm and FC Dallas’ Brandon Servania was painful. Even more horrifying was that they were both sent back out on the pitch almost immediately.  Neither could continue after a few minutes and fortunately were self-aware enough to say something.  You could hear Tinnerholm saying that he couldn’t see well and his facial expressions fluctuated between blank and confused.  And the hits just kept on coming with Alex Callens uncharacteristically going down after a ball was driven at his head and then Tony Rocha’s head being looked at after a collision.

I’m clearly not a medical professional, but I am aware that a lot of progress has been made in the early diagnosis and treatment of concussions in youth sports.  Long gone are the days when coaches believed that their young athletes could tough it out through a head injury, probably due in part to the press coverage of the traumatic brain injuries of NFL players.  I just can’t understand why the same respect is not given to MLS players.  

Everyone should want to protect their players’ heads and it seems that there could be some simple steps that the league could take to err on the side of caution when dealing with potential concussions:

1- The medical staff needs to take a lot more time in evaluating a possible concussion. In many cases, symptoms don’t show up immediately and putting the athlete back into a physically and mentally taxing environment will exacerbate the brain injury.

2- The three substitution rule should be waived for goalkeepers to be properly assessed for concussions.  This position is particularly vulnerable and medical staff needs time to assess it.  Currently, they rush through this as the keeper would need to be subbed out and replaced,  unable to return to the game if he is cleared.  A backup keeper should be allowed to play while the starting keeper is tended to.

3- An additional 4th substitution should be available for field players if both teams’ medical staff and the referee agree (without input from either coach), that the player needs to be evaluated for a concussion.  If the player is tested more throughly over a longer period of time and is cleared to return to the game, the player’s “concussion sub” comes out and cannot be used again in the match.

We currently don’t know the status of Tinnerholm’s injury but it should be treated with the same urgency and concern as any other physical part of his body.  The team may need to learn to play without him in order for a full recovery.

Next up:  How will this shaky performance impact NYCFC’s must-win match on Wednesday versus a closely trailing (only four points!) Atlanta United?

All images: @NYCFC

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NYCFC’s chaotic win over New England Revolution, 2-1

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Walking into our seats tonight, our friend, a row over said “This is going to be Jesús Medina’s night.”  We laughed, winked and then commiserated about missing players due to international duty.  

If you have been following New York City Football Club over the past two years, you are aware that one of the Designated Player spots is occupied by Medina, a now-22 year-old Paraguayan forward who frankly, doesn’t play very much.  There are many theories as to why he has produced paltry goals or assists since his signing in 2018.

Going into this match versus New England Revolution, NYC was down a few key pieces of its regular attacking regiment due to international duty (Ronald Matarrita) and injury (Héber).  The team also went into the game without its regular starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who was called up to the US Men’s National Team for international friendly matches.

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The match was a strange brew of yellow cards, a red card, an early goal, late use of VAR and very uneven possession.  City was down a goal from 2 minutes in and then was up a player from the 7th minute due to a red card ejection for New England’s  Antonio Mlinar Delamea. But City just could not finish.  

NYCFC did not look like a team that was up a player for much of the game as the Revolution defended extremely well and goalkeeper Matt Turner had quite a game of beautiful saves.  Nobody would have predicted that the most important substitution of the match would be in the 60th minute, when Jesús Medina came in for Sebastien Ibeagha.

This substitution reinvigorated the attacking efforts of NYCFC in the middle and attacking thirds of the field.  Ten minutes later, Medina was able to bury a ball into the back of the net, his goal leveling the game. In stoppage time, Medina successfully executed a penalty kick to seal the deal for a NYCFC victory.

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I was not only happy for the win for the obvious reasons but also because another City player who was called up for international duty, defender Maxime Chanot, found a way to push back his date of reporting to the Luxembourg National Team until after he played in this game.  Chanot made his life a bit more complicated for the good of the team and his strong play in this match was necessary and much appreciated.

No matter how much chaos, luck, and uneven calls by the officials contributed to this victory, the player who stepped up big is Medina.   He delivered when the team desperately needed it and can consider himself back in City fans’ good graces.  More importantly, our friend Luis can call himself a psychic.

All images: @NYCFC

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Hudson River Derby Part Deux: NYCFC best the NY Red Bulls 2-1

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

It was NYCFC’s turn to host their regional rival, the New York Red Bulls, during MLS Heineken Rivalry Week.  NYCFC had been on a winning streak, beating both FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew SC in a congested schedule.  

Although City walked onto the pitch with confidence and spring in their step, everything positive was quickly deflated in the the first few minutes.  The predicted runaway train pace of Red Bulls instantly threw a wrench into NYCFC’s plan of tight possession.

Coach Doménec Torrent has been consistent in his post match talks about the type of game that he wants the team to play, and that plan leaves no room for long balls leading to counter attacks.  

In the first 25 minutes of the match, much of the New York City squad looked like deer caught in the headlights of the incoming Red Bulls high, hard, and fast press.  Every attempt to string together an attacking sequence met by Red Bulls pressure was cut short, sent long and then the counter-attacking hounds were released.

Alex Muyl, who seems to have taken over the ‘lead bad guy with the bad mustache’ role from Sacha Kljesten, put one past Sean Johnson in the 10th minute off a pass by “Kaku” Romero Gamarra.  It was increasingly frustrating to watch.

Then something happened, and I don’t know what “it” was exactly, but NYCFC seemed to remember that they were a good team and trained for this.  

The passing sequences were tight and met by RBNY pressure but City seemed to relax and make calm and smart decisions.  Players remembered to make runs and do crazy things like get open.  Once the offensive spigot opened, NYCFC continued for another good 30 minutes, resulting in a successful PK converted by Maxi Moralez just before half time, and later, a fiery finish off a back heel by Héber in the 53rd minute.  

Forward Alexandru Mitrita must be back to full fitness as he oozed speed, accuracy,  vision, and creativity in generating attacking chances. The score could have been much higher for City, had the goal posts and crossbar not gotten in the way at least three times.  Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles also made some unbelievable saves.

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The last twenty minutes probably caused many a nail biter, as a revert to old habits with the Red Bulls piercing the midfield and generating attacks were eventually destroyed by either Alex Callens, Maxime Chanot, or Anton Tinnerholm.  

Of course  an altercation was inevitable given the heightened emotions of the match. This time is was between Ronald Matarrita, who came into the game with a yellow card and Red Bulls Michael Murillo.  Although Murillo started the head butting sequence, it was solely Matarrita who was caught and booked, leaving NYCFC to play with 10 men in the last 4 minutes of the match.  Fortunately, RBNY were unable to level the game.

Next Saturday (August 31st) NYCFC will now have to face Vancouver Whitecaps, their farthest geographic opponent, without key player Matarrita on the squad. After that schlep, the team will be back home for three consecutive games facing New England, Toronto, and San Jose.

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Oh and by the way, New York is blue.

All images are by  Tisha Gale // Twitter: @TishaGale // Instagram: @tishagale15

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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NYCFC cuts off the Columbus Crew 1-0

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City Football Club faced off against an inconsistent Columbus Crew and managed to pull out a win.  As I’ve said recently, I was nervous about how this game would play out. As low on the table as Columbus sits, they have recently taken down good teams on the road, such as during their match with the New York Red Bulls.

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The Good

Defenders Alex Callens and Anton Tinnerholm returned to the lineup from minor injuries.  The first half was smooth sailing for NYCFC as they maintained tight possession in the middle and attacking third –  70% possession in fact.  

The attacking partnership of Héber and Taty Castellanos looked strong with both attempting through balls and diagonal runs in or around the box. Sometimes the passes were a hair off, but it looks like they are getting more and more in sync each game.  Castellanos also continued his goal scoring run by putting one in off a pass by Maxi Moralez in the 36′.  

The NYCFC attack was complemented by the left wing runs of Ronald Matarrita, which opened up space in the middle.  It must be noted that the eternally peppy Mata will attempt to chase down any and all passes.  In this match, his aerial crosses were not necessarily hitting their target, but they worked to scramble the Crew’s defense in front of the goal.  Columbus Crew’s goalkeeper Eloy Room worked very hard in the first half to keep it to one goal allowed.

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The Bad

The immediate reaction after the match was that NYCFC played terribly in the second half.  The main difference was Pedro Santos being subbed into the game for the Crew.  He played on another level from the rest of the fielded Crew team last night and is incredibly hard to predict and defend.  

Santos’ bursts of speed and runs into open space set NYC’s defense on their heels causing the team to lose patience with their tried and true plan of tight possession which had been set forth by head coach Dome Torrent .  Once Santos entered the equation, the team seemed to get impatient and would send long balls or crosses too soon and then were quickly needing to deal with the ensuing counter attacks.

A bit more good, though

With James Sands out for 6-8 weeks with a broken collarbone and Ebenezer Ofori out with a knee injury , Tony Rocha started at midfield and looked like he’s been drinking the Dome Kool-Aid.  With his short quick passes to and from Maxi while making diagonal runs and his physical defensive pressure, he appears to be settling into the lineup.

Maxime Chanot defended extremely well throughout both halves, while goalkeeper Sean Johnson had to become very active in the second half.   At one point fans were worried about both of them as they  were down and clutching their heads after saving an attempt on goal.  Minutes later, Johnson saved a goal just outside the box with his own head.

So many questions

I can say that home fans breathed a sigh of relief to escape that game with three points.  Next up is a match with regional rival NY Red Bulls on Saturday.  

How will NYCFC deal with the typical RBNY high press?  Will they stay patient and stick to their game plan?  With RBNY’s physical style, will Matarrita start with a yellow card on his back?  Will RBNY be able to start the seemingly injured goalkeeper Luis Robles? Will any of this matter as Red Bulls seem to be the LA Galaxy to NYCFC’s West coast counterpart LAFC?

All photos by Juan Carlos Rubiano // IG: @ohcitysaidi // Twitter: @OhCitySaidI

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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NYCFC at a Crossroads

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City Football Club seems to be at a crossroads now with three games ahead in tight succession between Saturday and August 24th.  The talk amongst fans is how many points is reasonable to expect from these matches and where the season will go from there.

I don’t like to jinx things but…

Despite NYCFCs drop in the rankings after Sunday’s game, I’m not concerned. New York City still has 3 games in hand with 23 played while Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia and Atlanta have played 26 and 25 respectively.   If NYCFC can keep its act together in the next three matches, important points can be gained and they can climb up the table. 

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Sunday’s match versus Atlanta United in “Atlan-turf” ended with a 2-1 loss, with momentum and possession clearly with the home squad.  It was a ticky-tacky match with a lot of contact, simulation, and aggression. 

NYCFC head coach Dome Torrent stated after the match that “You have to be brave to play Atlanta” and it did appear that the team was intimidated by the former champions. Perhaps it was the uncertainty about the fitness of midfielder Maxi Moralez and striker Héber but City did not play with confidence. 

Nevertheless, a home field Atlanta is theoretically supposed to win.  They consistently draw a huge crowd, are on an upward swing with their season and are very accustomed to playing on artificial turf.

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Upcoming matches

New York City travels to face FC Cincinnati on 8/17

It’s no  secret that FC Cincy sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.  Is this a potential trap game?  With Maxi Moralez perhaps not at 100%, Dome Torrent will may keep him rested and play him only if needed.  NYCFC should completely dominate FC Cincinnati but Dome may be playing to ensure everyone is healthy to face…

Columbus Crew at home on 8/21

Columbus has not had a great season but it has very talented players and they are capable of slaying giants.  (See their win over Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.) Victory is not a foregone conclusion and City will need to balance strong defending of Gyasi Zardes and Pedro Santos while playing the tight possession-centric style that has served them well. 

RBNY at home on 8/24

We need to talk about the strange voodoo powers that RBNY seems to have over NYCFC.  City faces them year in and year out and it seems that NYC either gets completely trounced or barely squeaks by.   (We also see this in the western conference with LAFC versus LA Galaxy.  LAFC can have the best record in the league but just can’t beat the Galaxy.)

There are two ways to look at this game:  Everyone is fit and prepared to go all in and get a win, no matter how many limbs are left on the field or the team plays for a draw, keeping most players from getting injured and look ahead to the rest of the season. 

A lot of the noise in players’ heads will be determined by the results of the two prior games.  If they handedly beat Cincinnati and Columbus, I predict that they will walk onto the pitch with chests puffed out and ready to go for a big win. If not, they will play tentatively and will be lucky to gain a point.  

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 All images including featured image by NYCFC.com

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Maxi Moralez’s huge presence on NYCFC

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

In the last few days more media attention has been brought to New York City Football Club’s Designated Player, midfielder Maxi Moralez.  

His stats speak for themselves, (he currently leads the league with 13 assists and additionally has made 6 goals), but to those who have been following his career in New York, the numbers barely scratch the surface of the artful and creative style which is Maxi’s signature.  Maxi seems to be everywhere you need him while maintaining an overall vision of his teammates’ positioning.  It is a treat to watch him week in and week out.  

Last year NYCFC fans staged a virtual internet sit-in surrounding the MLS All-Star game by organizing the voting in of almost the entire Atlanta United team and refusing to vote in any of their own.  The general sentiment was that NYCFC was doing well (ironically right after this, the season started tanking) and that our players should not be wasting their time playing in a useless game where they risked potential injury on the artificial turf. 

With Atlanta as the run away front runner, other teams’ (ahem, NYCFC) fans were attempting to find any way to slow them down.  ‘Let them play in a game that doesn’t count! They think they are so great!  Maybe they’ll get hurt!’  

This season, perhaps because there is much yet to be decided in the Eastern Conference, New York City fans were less salty and overall more supportive of Maxi Moralez’s representation of the team in the MLS All-Star game. Maxi was about to head off to Orlando when he tweaked his calf in the game versus Sporting Kansas City.  The injury is apparently minor, but in order to protect him Coach Dome Torrent will be resting Maxi on Saturday in the away match versus Real Salt Lake.  

Let’s be clear:  Maxi deserves both to be recognized as an MLS All-Star and get some rest.  In general, Maxi’s roles in relation to the rest of this team reminds me of the role many mothers play within their family units. 

Both Maxi and most mothers are constantly running in 17 different directions, while keeping long term goals in their sights.  Both Maxi and many moms are their team/family’s  “emergency phone calls”, are constantly aware of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and when there’s an opportunity for a family member to learn on their own.  They know how to motivate others and experience joy at their teammate’s successes.

They don’t ask for their own spotlight and play hurt.  Both never stop moving until they drop and set others up for glory.  They know when others need to be scolded and when to protect them.  They know when to stay calm and when it’s time to raise hell.  All of these qualities are regularly demonstrated by Maxi Moralez, and NYCFC would be a far less cohesive unit and a far less successful team without him.  

As reported by MLS.com, Moralez stated in a pre-All Star Game player Q&A, that he would like to possibly end his career where he began, in Argentina.  There is a very strong chance that Maxi, a married 32 year old father with young children of his own, in his final year of his DP contract, is playing his last few months with the club.  He deserves to end his career on his own terms, but as a fan of the team I wonder what this will mean for its future. 

We will get a small taste of how the club plays without its ‘mom’ on Saturday against Real Salt Lake.  Like a grown child moving out of the house to pursue a job or education, they’d better get used to it.  

All Images:  NYCFC

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The yin and the yang of NYCFC vs Colorado Rapids

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

In last night’s Rocky Mountain duel versus the Colorado Rapids, New York City Football Club came away with the 2-1 win. It was not an easy result.

The team, near full health with Alexandru Mitrita, James Sands and Héber returning to the lineup, dominated possession with a continuous onslaught of attacking chances on Colorado and yet had a hard time with finishing. The match was filled with dualities which seemed to both hold the victory a bit out of their grasp and yet also paved the way for them to walk away with three points.

Many New York fans were eager to see Colorado’s Jonathan Lewis face off against his old teammates.  Lewis has been a welcome addition to the Rapids with his speed on attack and was the player who orchestrated the first goal of this match.  Lewis easily sped past Sebastien Ibeagha and fed the ball to Sebastian Anderson who buried it in the 6th minute.  

There was definitely a sense of poetic justice for Lewis as he struggled to gain playing time while at NYCFC.  Minutes later, 16-year-old Anderson was shown a red card on an apparent studs up tackle on Ronald Matarrita.  The highs and the lows of soccer seemed to happen within minutes for Anderson.

Rapids played down a player for most of the game but were able to defend well against NYCFC who just could not finish.  Colorado was up 1-0 until the 40th minute when Héber put one in on a ball by Maxi Moralez.  

From the television camera angles, Héber looked off side but the goal stood and the game was level.  Although NYCFC continued to dominate, they struggled to put the last piece into the offensive puzzle until Mitrita came in and they found their missing attacking element. Mitrita converted the goal that fans were salivating for in the 83rd minute.

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Oh, and did I mention that Colorado Rapids had to utilize their backup goalkeeper Clint Irwin for half the match as Tim Howard went out with a strained calf?  

In theory, this should have been a easy and decisive victory.  Despite being down a player, Colorado continued to park the bus in front of their goal with occasional attempts to counter attack.  These counter attacks were particularly scare-inducing during the last 10 minutes when almost the entire NYCFC team was above the half line.

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Perhaps the referee gods were on the side of New York City during this match.  There was the early Colorado red card, the lack of off side calls and a lenience by the referee on players like Alex Callens, who elbowed  off the ball on the edge of the box in extra time.   Was all of this karma for last week’s “Throw-in Gate” versus the New York Red Bulls? We will never really know.

Next test for NYCFC is at home versus a bruised Sporting Kansas City on Friday 7/26.

All photos:  NYCFC

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This is not an NYCFC recap

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Originally, this was going to be a look back at the last three New York City Football Club matches with some crossover between the conviction of soccer fandom and playing mahjongg.  Then I made the questionable choice of opening Twitter right before laying out my thoughts. I learned of a change in the NYCFC home grown media family that quickly altered my plans.

Truth be told, the main reason I have a presence on Twitter is to be informed on all things related to soccer.  However, on any given day one can drown in the sludge of overall political polarity and the negativity of “calling out” culture that is prevalent amongst keyboard warriors and trolls.  It can be overwhelming for anyone with an actual beating heart in their chest.

Soccer to me has always been a mechanism for bringing diverse people together.  So many components of the “American Dream” are built into American soccer culture:  hard work, creativity, international influences, the lack of time outs and the passion for winning.  It’s a bit ironic that it’s easier than ever for people who live in the US to take in soccer in all its multi-cultural glory, and at the same time watch blatant racist and xenophobic statements being initiated by the leader of our country.  My younger self would never have predicted these overlapping arcs.

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Taty Castellanos (right) stretches for the ball.

I’ve met some of my closest friends and extended family through my connection with NYCFC.   So, please pardon me while I wax sentimental reading about how one person in particular Andrés Emilio Soto, the creator of NYCFC Nation podcast, hung up his microphone and editing equipment upon conclusion of this week’s 200th episode.

I met Andrés last season when he invited me on “The Nation” podcast to talk about my new gig as the NYCFC Reporter for MLSFemale.  This was  my first podcast. I had a lot of handwritten notes which crinkled loudly into the microphone and I said “um” a lot, which I’m certain created a lot of extra editing work for Andrés.  I will never forget how welcoming he, Chris P, and Chris M (the other long time contributing members of NYCFC Nation), made me feel, as we chatted openly about all things NYCFC.

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Andrés Emilio Soto flanked by Chris Magalee (aka Chris M) and photographer Juan Carlos Rubiano in the NYCFC press box. Image courtesy of A. Soto.

Andrés is a true fan of the sport and NYCFC.  He’s volunteered a huge portion of his time over the years through his work on “The Nation”, donated personal money to hosting viewing parties and social events, and raised money for City in the Community.  He’s also conveyed to me his support in promoting female soccer fandom.   (To clarify:  Andrés is not leaving but pursuing other non-podcasting avenues with NYCFC Nation.)

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Andrés Emilio Soto (right) with former NYCFC player Ethan White (center) and Chris Puntarelli (aka Chris P).  Image courtesy of A. Soto.

So, this isn’t a recap of the last few NYCFC matches because most of us know that the team lost versus Portland Timbers 1-0 (the first home loss in 2019), lost in a penalty kick shoot out versus Orlando City SC in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and again lost 2-1 versus regional opponent New York Red Bulls.  City still have about 4 games in hand with room to move up in the standings and have the second highest points per game number in the Eastern Conference with 1.61.

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Sebastien Ibeagha (left) clears the ball.

Writing this piece has been a much needed chance for me to inhale and breathe in the beauty and positivity that is my NYCFC family and MLSFemale family.  It’s also my thank you to Andrés and the extended NYCFC Nation podcast squad.  I was like the new kid who just transferred schools and you immediately invited me to sit at your table in the cafeteria.  I am grateful for the opportunity and support.

I love this sport and welcome all who appreciate the game and the diversity of its fan base.  I am excited for the soccer dabblers to taste it and figure out if it’s for them.  The door is always open and I’ve got some nice cold beers in the fridge.

Images by Tisha Gale unless otherwise noted.

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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How Deep Is Your Team? NYCFC Bests Seattle Sounders 3-0

Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

NYCFC banged out another home victory Wednesday night versus the Seattle Sounders with a score of 3-0. Both teams were missing players due Gold Cup and Copa América call ups, but City, even with injuries to key starters, proved the deeper and more persistent team of the match.

Ebenezer Ofori celebrates his goal.

In goal, Brad Stuver stepped up with key saves while usual starter Sean Johnson represents Team USA at the Gold Cup. Meanwhile, Sebastien Ibeagha diffused Sounders attacking chances with ease, sliding in for Alex Callens who is representing Peru in Copa America. (Both US and Peru will be heading to their respective tournament finals. Bam!)

Goalkeeper Brad Stuver applauds the supporters.

If we are being honest, it must be said that NYCFC midfielder and MLS All-Star Maxi Moralez did not play his best football last night. Yes, I know he scored a goal. However, passes seemed a tad off target, tackles a bit slow. He went down a bit too easily in some one v ones. He’s allowed to have an off night, I mean he’s human right?

In my opinion, NYCFC is a strong and creative team due to Moralez and his vision. He truly does weave a web around the other team, many times leaving them on their heels. It’s particularly fine for him to be off once in a while when the entire team seemed to step up and give 110% to make sure that the attack wasn’t turned over or key counter attack chances were not surrendered.

Did I also mention that New York City was playing without solid starters Héber at striker and James Sands on defense? Héber, out with a hamstring injury, has been a constant goal scoring threat since he joined the team. In the absence of Sands in a central defender role due to a fractured arm, Head Coach Dome Torrent switched up the lineup and has repositioned Maxime Chanot and Ibeagha in dual center back positions. Ronald Matarrita returned to left back from Copa América, mirroring Anton Tinnerholm in the right back role and – despite the lack of “wing back” label which is utilized with a healthy James Sands – both vigorously embraced their dual roles of defending and initiating attacks down the wings.

NYCFC lineup. Image by MLS

Goals were scored by Moralez, Jesus Medina and Ebenezer Ofori -another massive banger by the midfielder. Both Medina and Ofori came in as subs for Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Alexandru Mitrita, respectively, and delivered for the team.

Keaton Parks supports Jesus Medina.

I like to give out awards (shhhh, don’t tell anyone that they are merely symbolic) and to me the two MVPs for this match were Ronald Matarrita and Taty Castellanos, whose grit, never ending hustle and pressure initiated many of the team’s goal scoring chances. Runner-up was Keaton Parks who was unflappable in midfield.

Next match is Sunday 7/7 at 6:30 pm, when NYCFC hosts Portland after the Women’s World Cup final.

Featured and other images:  @NYCFC

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